Eagles Wake-Up Call: Rookie Progress Report

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

From time to time, we like to check in on how the Eagles’ draft picks are doing. With the first preseason game a day away, here’s an update.

Marcus Smith, OLB – He’s been running with the second team at the Jack spot behind Connor Barwin. And in all likelihood, that’s where Smith is going to see most of his action this season. He has looked the part from the first day of camp – long, athletic and can move in space. A couple days ago, he showed some feistiness, mixing it up with James Casey after the whistle. Smith, who has never before been to an NFL game, will likely make some normal rookie mental mistakes tomorrow night, but overall, he appears to be on schedule to contribute. Read more »

Three Leftover Thoughts On the Eagles

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Three leftover thoughts before we head to the NovaCare Complex for practice today.

1. I had previously been on the fence in regards to whether Zach Ertz could really be a breakout player in 2014. The issue, to me, was whether he could be a good enough blocker in the run game to stay on the field. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had a telling comment on that topic yesterday.

“It’s very important for tight ends, number one, to be efficient blockers,” he said. “You don’t always have tight ends that are just going to knock them into next Wednesday, but you have to be an efficient blocker, especially if your thing is to catch passes. I think Ertz is developing more and more and more. I see his confidence starting to really build.”

Last year, Brent Celek was outstanding blocking in the run game. The point Shurmur is making is it’s OK if Ertz doesn’t reach that level in 2014 – or really, ever. He was drafted because he can be a weapon in the passing game. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Numbers That Matter

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

I used part of yesterday’s off day to flip through the Eagles chapter of the Football Outsiders Almanac.

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, the Almanac is always chock full of good information, and it’s a great resource to get ready for the season.

Keeping that in mind, here are three Eagles numbers that matter, courtesy of their findings.

62 – The percentage of run plays for the Eagles when they were leading in the second half of games last year. That ranked No. 1 in the NFL. The previous year under Andy Reid, that number was 37 percent, which ranked dead last. Granted, the Eagles only won four games and didn’t have a lot of leads in 2012, but you get the point. Read more »

On Cooper And the DeSean Theory

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

One common theory regarding Riley Cooper is that much of his success in 2013 was made possible because of the attention DeSean Jackson received on the other side. Some are skeptical whether Cooper will be able to post similar numbers this season now that Jackson resides in D.C.

Jeremy Maclin, for one, isn’t buying it.

“I think his production came because he went out there and made plays,” said Maclin, who maintains that the only receiver in this league that draws double teams is Calvin Johnson — and that’s only on the goal line. “Obviously you have a guy on the other side who is pretty good as well but teams aren’t going to get beat by focusing on one person the whole game. That’s not how it works in this league. When people say that it baffles me.”

What can’t be denied is that Cooper — who ended with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last year — found himself in a whole bunch of one-on-one situations, which certainly helped his cause. According to second-year tight end Zach Ertz, that’s unlikely to change this year even without Jackson on the team. That’s because the man truly responsible for the single coverage is still on the roster. Read more »

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